Glorious Greens Pesto & Fresh Peas Spaghetti

Most all of us love a classic basil pesto but sometimes, it’s that song stuck in your head that you just want out–even though you still love it. This pesto has a touch of basil, to soothe the need for familiarity, but brings three other greens to the table to break up the routine–kale, baby spinach, and fresh mint. English peas, although in peak season, see spurts of availability all year. If all else fails, frozen peas are a perfect substitute for this simple and fresh main dish.

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

For the pesto:
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh curly kale
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water

For the pasta:
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon kosher salt (for salting pasta water)
1 cup english peas, shelled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup pasta cooking water
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt boiling water and cook spaghetti accordingly to the package directions, to al dente.

While the spaghetti cooks, combine all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water, if necessary, to achieve a smooth consistency.

Add remaining olive oil, for the pasta, in a large skillet that is over medium heat. Heat olive oil for 30 seconds and add the fresh peas. Let the peas sauté for a minute before adding the water and covering the skillet with a lid. Let peas steam for an additional 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

When pasta is done, add the hot noodles to the skillet of peas. As a quick reminder, do not drain the pasta before reserving the pasta cooking water.

Finish the dish by plating the spaghetti and peas, topping with a healthy portion of pesto and a sprinkle of cheese.

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The Crispiest Chicken in Mustard Cream Sauce

Be still my heart and soul. This meal. Without fail, I eat this dish at least once a week and I see no end in sight. This stove-to-oven method of cooking chicken thighs and legs makes the crispiest skin I’ve ever achieved sans fryer. It’s incredible to contrast the tenderness of the baked chicken with a skin that audibly cracks when cut because it’s fully rendered and cracker-crisp.

The sauce is truly life-changing. Tangy, garlicky, and just the right amount of creamy. I, personally, am not a pure cream sauce fan–you’ll never see me ordering the fettucine alfredo. For me, when something is just pure cream, it’s almost too rich. I need something to cut through the richness and bring a bright and sunny flavor to the mix. Brandy, wine, lemon, onion, garlic, two different mustards, chicken broth, and a touch of cream create something ever-so balanced and matched with just the right amount of contrast.

I have been making this chicken dish for going on about six months and every time I do, I get the measurements more spot on and the ingredients just that much more to my liking. I started making the sauce with only wine, then I added brandy, and the next week–lemon juice. Then, I used all three. One day I used just dijon mustard then another day, I threw whole grain mustard in the mix. It’s really a great thing that I love to eat, so much, because who else is going to fine-tune my recipes for me?

I included, below the recipe and method for this meal, all the variations that I have tried to date for your experimentation pleasure. I hope you adore this recipe as much as I do. It’s something special.

[Read more…]

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Pasta Alla Carbonara

Pasta, bacon, egg, black pepper, and cheese. The five food groups. Just kidding (I’m so funny.) Well, anyway, I really wish those were the five foods I needed to stay wholesome. The concept of a no-carb diet, and one that does not include eating pasta, continues to endlessly extend beyond my comprehension.

Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time. It is an Italian dish that consists of hot pasta, mixed with the previously mentioned egg (raw egg…but trust me), bacon, black pepper, and cheese to create a creamy sauce. Then, it’s finished with more cheese and if you’d like, some fresh herbs. It’s perfectly indulgent, luscious, and all those other words you hesitate around your friends to use to describe your meals for fear of them calling you a food snob. 

Mixing a raw egg into hot pasta is seemingly tricky business. The key to making Pasta Alla Carbonara, the way the plan of the world intended, is to mix the sauce off direct heat or else you will end up with scrambled egg & cheese pasta–which I have made, by mistake, and isn’t bad tasting (at all) but it’s definitely not a silky carbonara. My trick for getting the egg not to scramble up on you is to add hot pasta water (literally, the water the just pasta cooked in) to the egg & cheese in a bowl, slowly, before you add the pasta so that the egg mixture comes to a warm temperature all on its own and isn’t shocked into a eggy scramble when the pasta enters the situation. 

I am not the first person to toss an egg yolk on top of a bowl of carbonara but I sure will not be the last. This dish is finished with an egg yolk and each person gets to delightfully poke the yolk and stir it into their hot pasta. It’s dreamy. It is commonly said, among the culinary folk, that when you are making a simple dish with very few ingredients (like this one,) it’s so important that you use the best ingredients. That means, ones that taste lovely all on their own because you won’t taste much else. You know, “good” olive oil like Ina Garten says. Or the real parmesan cheese (parmigiano-reggiano) not the powder in the green shaker. When you are cooking up a pot of pasta with your favorite jarred sauce, by all means pull out that green shaker of cheese but please, I beg of you, get the good stuff for this recipe. 

When it comes to eggs (and you all know I love me a good egg,) I use the freshest and most humanely raised eggs I can find. It makes such a difference in taste–you will never go back. Believe it or not, cage free and free range are not the best eggs you can get your hands on (Read this: great blog post.) Cage free simply means the chickens are not kept in crates/boxes and they can still be in a very small, confined space. Free range means that the chickens have access to a free roaming space but are not raised in one (think big cramped space with a small door to outside, if they can get to it.) Pasture-raised is just that. Raised outdoors, as they were intended to be raised. Vital Farms does just this and sells their eggs all over the country. When I’m not picking up my eggs from a local California farmer, these are my absolute favorite. And when you are eating just an egg yolk, mixed into that amazing hot pasta, it needs to have the best flavor you can get. 

Okay, enough preaching. More recipe-ing!!

Ingredients Serves 2
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
4 ounces of good quality bacon (approximately 2 strips), roughly chopped
1/2 pound linguine or any other long noodle (1/2 box)
1 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground

Fresh italian parsley, to garnish

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt.
2. While the water boils, cook the chopped bacon pieces until crispy and brown, over low heat, in a heavy bottomed skillet (cast iron is best.) Low and slow prevents burning and will allow the bacon to cook evenly! Spoon the bacon bits out and place on a paper towel to drain. Pour out the bacon grease into a measuring cup. Save 1 tablespoon of it and set aside.
3. Cook pasta for length of time indicated on the box, until just al dente. Do not drain before taking out 1/2 cup of starchy cooking liquid! (The water the pasta is cooked in) Drain the pasta.
4. In a small bowl, mix the egg whites that you’ve separated, half of the cheese (1/2 cup,) and half of the black pepper (1/2 tablespoon.) While mixing the ingredients, slowly drizzle in half of the pasta cooking water to slowly bring the eggs to a warmer temperature.
5. Add the hot pasta into the pan that you cooked the bacon in and toss with bacon grease that was set aside and warm over low hear for 1 minute.
6. Remove from the heat, and slowly add in the egg white/cheese/black pepper/hot pasta water mixture into the pasta while mixing continuously.
7. Stir in cooked bacon bits.
8. Add hot pasta water, as needed, to achieve a smooth and creamy sauce. Add in slowly! You don’t want the sauce to get too watery.
9. Divide pasta into two bowls and create a small well in the center. Place an egg yolk into the well, in each bowl.
10. Finish with remaining cheese and black pepper, evenly. Garnish with parsley.

This post was in happy partnership with Vital Farms, all opinions are (always) my own.

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